The 10 Most Important Lines From Pope Francis’ Historic Speech to Congress

Taking several progressive stances, the pope did not shy away from the politically divisive issues of the day.

Source: Mother Jones

Author:Pema Levy

Emphasis Mine

In a powerful speech to a joint session of Congress Thursday morning, Pope Francis pushed the United States to confront several political issues that tend to divide Republicans and Democrats, including immigration, climate change, the Iran deal, Cuba, poverty, and the death penalty. His speech noted that politics “cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.” He didn’t chastise any political party, and he, not surprisingly, had a clear but brief reference to opposing abortion. But overall, his address had a progressive cast.

Here are the most powerful quotes, according to the prepared text:

On climate change: “I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States—and this Congress—have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (Democrats stood to applaud the pope’s remarks on climate change, while many Republicans remained seated. The pope’s message was more muted than his remarks on the issue Wednesday when he spoke at the White House.”

On abolishing the death penalty: “I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”

On abortion: “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.” (This was his only direct reference to abortion in the speech.)

On same-sex marriage: The closest he came to addressing same-sex marriage was in a passage about the importance of family. “I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. “Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.” (This did not appear to be an explicit denouncement of marriage equality.)

On Iran and Cuba: “When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue—a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons—new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.”

On the refugee crisis: “Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”

On immigration: “We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants…Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal solidarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.”

On poverty: “I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.”

On the arms trade: “Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

On religious fundamentalism: “We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.” 





Obamacare’s Victory Is a Defeat For Fundamentalism


Author: Adam Lee

Emphasis Mine

You know it’s been a big week when the Supreme Court once again upholding Obamacare is only the second biggest story to come out of the court. But I wanted to write about this ruling and what it means.

As you may remember, I exulted in 2012 when the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare the first time, rejecting a claim that the law was unconstitutional. It turns out I spoke too soon, because there was another challenge waiting in the wings: King v. Burwell, a right-wing attack which sought to cripple the law rather than strike it down entirely.

Obamacare, like Romneycare in Massachusetts, is a “three-legged stool“: regulations on insurance companies, so they can’t turn people away or drop them for being sick; an individual mandate requiring everyone to buy insurance; and tax credits to help pay for insurance for people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Some states have their own exchange websites where people can shop for insurance, but a majority use exchanges set up by the federal government. The King lawsuit focused on an ambiguous and obscure clause which said that the tax credits were available on exchanges “established by the state”, which they used to argue that the credits shouldn’t be available for policies purchased on the federal exchanges (even though the law directs the federal government to set up that exchange in the state’s place if the state declines to).

This was no small matter. Without the credits, Obamacare in these states would have turned into a “death spiral”: poor people drop out, raising the cost of premiums for everyone else, which forces still more people to drop their coverage, which raises premiums still further, and so on. Millions of people would have lost their health insurance. The exchanges could have collapsed entirely. (The hand-picked plaintiff, David King, bragged that he has health insurance through the V.A. and wouldn’t have been affected whatever the outcome.)

With an even minimally rational Congress, a one-line legislative fix could have resolved this. But with a fundamentalist Republican Congress dead-set on destroying Obamacare by any means necessary, there would have been no hope of a fix if the court had ruled badly. Even so, the plaintiffs’ gotcha reading was so absurd and tendentious that few legal scholars took it seriously. But then the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

I remember the gut-churning anxiety I felt when I heard that news last year. At the time, it seemed plausible that there were five conservative justices who would seize on any excuse to rule against a Democratic accomplishment. But the ruling, when it came down on Thursday, was an enormous relief: not just a victory, but a solid 6-3 victory. Roberts and Kennedy joined the court’s liberals to draw the commonsensical conclusion that all the parts of the law work together as a unified whole, and Congress clearly didn’t intend to set up an exchange that was intended to fail. As Roberts cleverly pointed out, even the more conservative justices understood this until it became politically convenient for them not to

In retrospect, this wasn’t a surprising outcome. John Roberts upheld Obamacare when he could have killed it the first time; it seemed unlikely that he was going to destroy it on the second go-round. Even so, conservatives were furious, accusing Roberts of betrayal as if he had an obligation to rule the way they wanted. Most hilarious was libertarian wingnut Wayne Root, who speculated that President Obama was blackmailing him.

The cynicism and callousness of the conservatives who backed the King lawsuit is astonishing. Without even a constitutional principle at stake, they were willing to create nationwide chaos and take away millions of people’s access to desperately needed medical care, all out of spiteful desire to destroy President Obama’s greatest accomplishment. But they lost – again – and apart from some residual issues (like the continued tussling over the expansion of Medicaid and the birth control mandate), there’s now a wide-open path for Obamacare to do what it was always designed to do.

Just to be clear, I had no personal stake in either of these rulings. I have health insurance through my day job, and, being straight, I’ve never had to fight for recognition or legitimacy for my marriage. But the lives and happiness of millions of people were hanging on the outcomes of both. Since the good guys won in both cases, I think any person of conscience would feel vicarious joy and relief.

There’s one more point relevant to this blog, which is that both rulings undermine the power of religious fundamentalism. With marriage equality, that’s obvious, as I discussed previously. With health care, the connection is more subtle, but just as real. It’s no coincidence that some of the fiercest opposition to Obamacare has come from the religious right: they want to shred the social safety net, so that people have no option but to turn to churches when they need help. There’s plenty of research to establish that in societies that are prosperous, peaceful and secure, people see less need for religious consolation; and I don’t doubt the religious right knows this as well. Their defeat has weakened their influence and made us a more just and humane society, and that’s very much worth celebrating.